Convergence Culture = Convenience Culture

For our generation, convergence has become normality in the technological sphere which could position us as either the cleverest generation or the laziest. Convenience is everything these days. It seems that greater the functionality of a device, the more fondly it is perceived. An example of this is the mobile phone. This device – coming from humble beginnings – now goes far beyond the ability to make a phone call. The reality is, these devices are now considered a central information hub for consumers.

I read a surprisingly relevant Tweet by Megan Fox (2012) this week which stated:

We live in a society where losing our phone is more dramatic than loosing our virginity

With the increasing convergence and convenience of technology, comes the increasing importance of these items, which go far beyond your average telephone call. Personally, my phone is my central mobile web surfing device, my music player, my internet banking device, my photo gallery, my USB stick, my camera, my calendar, my GPS system, my address book, my social media hub, and I occasionally use it for a phone call.

However technological devices are not only undergoing convergence, they are also facilitating it. This circulation of media content—across different media systems, competing media economies, and national borders—depends heavily on consumers’ active participation. Henry Jenkins (2006) makes an interesting point in stating that each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives. When reading this, the first concept that came to mind was the Encoding/Decoding Model of Communication. Producers of content acting as the ‘sender’, encode a message with meaning, however the decoding of these meanings is highly influenced by the noise and the personal field of experience of the receiver. Having said this, the emergence of convergence has caused the distinctions between the sender and receiver in this model to become blurred with the surfacing of ‘produsers’ – the convergence of the ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’.

So having noted how convergence has heightened technological experience, increased importance of devices and shortened words; which side of the clever/lazy argument are you on?

Reference:

Deuze, M. (2007) Convergence culture in the creative industries, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 10/2, 243-263.

Jenkins, H. (2004) The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7/1, 33-43.

Jenkins, H. (2006). ‘Worship at the altar of convergence: A new paradigm for understanding media change’. In H. Jenkins, Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide (pp 1-24). New York: New York University Press. [URL:http://www.nyupress.org/webchapters/0814742815intro.pdf].

Megan Fox 2012, Twitter, accessed 31/08/2012, https://twitter.com/ReaIMeganFox.

Image: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-OSNVbkd29xE/TzECENQZd7I/AAAAAAAAABk/6RtMBRj5xiQ/s1600/iphone-converge.jpg

Copy – right or wrong?

The main point I took away from the readings this week is that defining intellectual property – especially with regards to intangible material online – is difficult. Wherever one point of view is created, there is always an alternate perception on the matter. Boldrin and Levine (2007) made an interesting point with regards to the analogy drawn from the emergence of the steam engine. The functionality of copyright, as expressed through James Watt’s invention and resultant attempt to eliminate competition through his innovation and patent of the steam engine. They note that once Watt’s patents were secured and production started, a substantial portion of his energy was devoted to fending off rival inventors.

 

“The wasteful effort to suppress competition and obtain special privileges is referred to by economists as rent-seeking behavior.”

 

This point caused me to think, that perhaps instead of finding ways to suppress information within the ‘free-flow information economy’ that is the Internet – more measures could be taken to ensure both the producers and users benefit from the sources which are created by and available to consumers? But this would most certainly erupt in a debate of opportunity cost with the producer and consumer, which would seemingly take us back to square one – or in the case of Apple and Samsung – rectangle one.

 

Lessig (2004) points out that scientists build upon the work of other scientists without asking or paying for the privilege, as one does not have to ask to borrow an established theory. However, one would acknowledge the use of this work in a reference. Consequently, could a reference be perceived as enough? Could the downloading of a song and its reference being its ‘title’ be considered a reference to the content? Does it not hold value for both the producer and consumer in this sense? And the cycle starts again…

 

 

Reference:

Boldrin, M., and Levine, D.K. (2007). Introduction. In Against Intellectual Monopoly (pp. 1-15). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press [URL:http://levine.sscnet.ucla.edu/papers/anew01.pdf].

Lessig, L. (2004). Creators. In Free Culture: How Big Media uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Strangle Creativity (pp. 21-30). New York: Penguin [URL: http://www.authorama.com/free-culture-4.html].

Snapper, J. W. (1999). On the Web, plagiarism matters more than copyright piracy. Ethics and Information Technology, 1, 127-136.

Tech – no – logic

This week’s topic of the globally networked information economy resonated on a personal level for me. In a society where we are constantly networking – on a physical and virtual level – can we even consider it possible to ‘switch off’? Travelling to and from the city for work, I see key examples of people struggling to disconnect. Even before they are in the office, people are checking and exchanging emails, rendezvousing for breakfast meetings and are involved in business related phone calls – never mind the fact that it is only 7:18am. Time doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore for business information networks. I can assure you the ‘must be contactable at all times’ clause was not in my contract. The  infiltration of the Internet and our adapted cyberculture have allowed for information to travel anywhere, anytime and anyone – even to those who are not involved in the transaction. If you weren’t aware of the business being conducted before the phone call taken by the man sitting next to you in the train carriage – you certainly are afterwards.

The information Ted shared on Udacity – an educational institution who believed much of the educational value of their university classes could be offered online – really cemented some of my attitudes towards my university experience. The very existence of our digital society is created by curiosity, interest and the human drive to push the boundaries. I struggle to ascertain why the university is not harnessing this potential? In exchange for our university fees, we receive education. But in an era where people are connecting online everyday and can ‘Google’ the answer to just about anything – why are students being forced into a situation in which no value is received (keeping in mind that value can be perceived differently to each individual)? An example in this case refers to the seemingly newly adopted concept of ‘compulsory’ attendance at lectures. If a student can gain a more valuable educational sense through personal research methods online – rather than being literally lectured, by a controlling individual with a monotonic voice tone at the front of a lecture theatre – why should they be disadvantaged? The diverse functionality of the Internet and cyberspace should be a complementary experience for students- not one which is seen as a ‘minimalist approach’ as described by one lecturer. If our degrees are to prepare us for our futures, and then Internet and cyberspace are most certainly going to play a key role in this – what is the aversion? It is after all –those individuals forced into this situation who ‘switch off’ and find themselves in their own ‘personal information system‘.

When it comes to finding a balance between work and play – liquid labour has certainly blurred the boundaries. I am not sure whether people in today’s society could ever completely switch off – I imagine it would be like quitting smoking – it is hard to go cold turkey. Perhaps, there in this case there will never be a happy medium – but rather an acceptance of liquid labour as a normality?

Reference:

Bradwell, P., and Reeves, R. (2008) Economies. In Networked Citizens (pp. 25-31). London: Demos.  [URL:http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Network%20citizens%20-%20web.pdf].

Deuze, M. (2006) ‘Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work’. [URL:https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/3343/Liquid%20Life%20Deuze%202006.pdf].

Gregg, M. ‘Function Creep: Communication technologies and anticipatory labour in the information workplace’. [URL: http://homecookedtheory.com/wp-content/uploads/functioncreepnms.doc].

Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_VfwO17R16Co/SVppYoY73RI/AAAAAAAABCI/_pRJBBSpHRQ/s400/life.jpg

Techno-romanticism

Technology is like air; we live and breathe it and would ‘die’ without it. In modern times, technology infiltrates our lives. I witnessed an example of this today at Subway. While waiting in the line to order, an eight year old paid for his Subway with a debit card before answering a call on his iPhone. I don’t know why, but this terrifies me. This very action caused me to reflect upon what I was doing when I was 8 – and it certainly was not that.

It seems that our reliance on these global communication networks, particularly through the growth of the Internet and cyberspace, has developed a type of infatuation with technology itself. In my eyes, it could be portrayed as a romantic novel, where the internet promised it’s user to end individual isolation and foster inter-societal understanding – how romantic. Similar to the idea underlying the dream of global harmony and world peace, the idea underlying the dream of mediated proximity is that the availability of more communication contributes to the enhancement of social relations. But does this novel have the ‘happily ever after’ ending that we romantics are really looking for?

 
Kelly (1999) iterates that one by one, each of the things that we care about in life is touched by science and then altered. Human expression, thought, communication, and even human life have been infiltrated by high technology. But can this romanitically infatuated embryonic dependence (as seen in today’s subway situation) be deemed as healthy for society? If communication is the foundation of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our own individual identity, and of all economic systems, yet all of these aspects are now focused online, can they be considered as part of our physical reality, or are they merely virtual reality?

Reference:

Barlow, J.P. (1996) A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace [URL: https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html%5D.

Dyson, E., Gilder, G., Keyworth, G., Toffler, A. (1994) Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age [URL: http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html%5D.

Mitew, T 2012, The Network Scoiety, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 6 August.

Global Nervous System

Having read Bruce Sterling’s history of the Internet, my perceptions of it’s origins have altered dramatically. Rather than smooth liner progress, this reading shows how messy, contingent and intermittent the development of such technologies has been. In a way, I feel this new frame mirrors the diverse and sporadic nature of the Internet, and the networks it fosters. It is this particular disposition, which leads to the seemingly impossible task of control of content, a reoccurring topic of discussion within Australian society and the parliament.

The varied levels of communication networks are constantly being shaped by flows of information; built upon past experience and maintained and changed in the constant reshaping through the exposure to new information in everyday life. As Marshall McLuhan (1969) notes, the flows of information are infinitely malleable. The often-public aspects of networks do not merely offer a single message connected by two sides. An example of this could be seen through Facebook. Asking a question online to a friend could accumulate a wealth of responses from others (warranted or not), but again, this is the nature of networks!

Having grasped an understanding of some of the key aspects of this weeks readings, time-boundness represented a key issue in the development of this coherence. In an environment such as cyberspace, where information flows very quickly, through computer networks, and the new interrelations are born as fast as old connections die – time is a supreme factor. The radical development of new technologies, media and uses for these networks dramatically affects how information is transmitted. A break down in this system to me seems like a blockage in the nervous system within the human body. Messages travelling around the body are stopped and the functionality and understanding comes to a halt. Who would have thought that technology and human anatomy could create a plausible analogy?

Reference:

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b1/MAZE_30x20_Prim.ogv/mid-MAZE_30x20_Prim.ogv.jpg

Lessig, L. (2006). Four puzzles from cyber space. In L. Lessig Code version 2.0  (pp 9-30). New York: Basic Books. [URL:https://www.socialtext.net/codev2/four_puzzles_from_cyberspace]

Stalder, F. (2005) ‘Information Ecology’. In Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks pp. 62-66 [URL: http://felix.openflows.com/pdf/Notebook_eng.pdf]

Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction [URL:http://sodacity.net/system/files/Bruce_Sterling_A_Short_History_of_the_Internet.pdf]